Food & Drink
8 Essential Canadian Cookbooks That Will Stand the Test of Time
For these chefs, the land is not only beautiful but really delicious too.
by : Aman Dosanj- Mar 2nd, 2022
Background: Getty Images
Some cookbooks never get old.
Whether you’re new to home cooking or as well-seasoned as a cast iron pan, these cookbooks pushed boundaries, inspired travel, won awards, uncovered essential truths, and got us all excited about the place we call home. This list is for the cover-to-cover reader (like me). Best of all, there are no food trends, fancy equipment or diet fads in sight.
tawâw: Progressive Indigenous Cuisine, Shane M. Chartrand and Jennifer Cockrall-King
“It’s embarrassing that people don’t know about the Indigenous world,” states chef Shane Chartrand (Enoch Cree Nation, Treaty 6 Territory). If you agree, tawâw: Progressive Indigenous Cuisine—translating to ‘come in, you’re welcome, there’s room’—is a solid first step. tawâw is Chartrand’s raw and transparent search for a personal and culinary identity. Adopted by Métis and Mi’kmaw-Irish parents, he travels to various First Nations communities across the country looking for answers—and we’re with him every step of the way. “Do you have any idea how many people tell me how to be MORE Indigenous?” he says. “When writing the cookbook, we were careful not to exaggerate. My co-author [Jennifer Cockrall-King] and I were just really truthful when talking about what I know, what I don’t know, and what my experiences were and are,” he adds. The fact that tawâw is now in its third print-run tells you everything.
Acorn: Vegetables Re-Imagined, Shira Blustein and Brian Luptak
The moment you step into The Acorn restaurant in Vancouver, you can’t help but feel tingly about the rhythms of the seasons (even after a decade). Over here, everything we need for a vibrant, well-balanced, vegetable-forward diet is in our own backyard, which means…no avocados. Now, their cookbook is here to inspire home cooks wanting to take their year-round vegetable game up three notches. Bookmarked recipes include the Smoked Caramelized Parsnip and Potato Pâté (it’s delish), the Tomato Tart (on the cover), and with spring just around the corner, the Elderflower Panna Cotta. Is Acorn: Vegetables Re-Imagined a book where you cook on the fly? No, but that’s the point: you meditate over the process. If you have a thoughtful, food-curious, farmers’ market-obsessed person in your life, you’re getting them this book.
Wildness: An Ode to Newfoundland and Labrador, Jeremy Charles with Adam Leith Gollner
Newfoundland and Labrador—with its striking terrain—is a place like no other. When the island’s residents have lived off the land, and the sea, for centuries, a wild and seasonal mindset is just how it is. Since opening Raymonds Restaurant, chef Jeremy Charles has cast a much-needed spotlight on his majestic remote home. His book, Wildness, preserves those rich foodways with storied histories, breathtaking photography and gorgeous dishes where local, seasonal ingredients are king. If you’re into fishing, hunting and trapping, this happens to be one of the only places in North America where wild game is allowed on restaurant menus (true story). This coffee table stunner is admittedly a chef book for the more experienced home cook, but honestly, just come for the stories—and maybe you will end up in the kitchen.
Farm, Fire & Feast: Recipes from the Inn at Bay Fortune, Michael Smith
Michael Smith‘s latest book on the Inn at Bay Fortune’s Fireworks Feasts brings home a taste of his Prince Edward Island farm food. Based on my visit in 2019, the multi-course feast begins with an all-you-can-eat oyster bar. The Food Network Canada chef leaned over to tell me they shuck them faster than I can eat them — challenge accepted! Farm, Fire & Feast is stuffed cover-to-cover with dinner-friendly recipes that mimic that dining experience (minus the $195 per person price tag). Serving roughly 500 oysters per night, the chef guides you through how to shuck oysters like a Jedi Knight. Next came the Hot-Smoked Salmon cured with spruce tips (so good), the Classic Maritime Chowder, followed by the Smokehouse Brisket. Get this for the cook in your life with a thing for fire.
Duchess At Home: Sweet & Savoury Recipes from My Home to Yours, Giselle Courteau
The second cookbook from Giselle Courteau of Edmonton’s award-winning Duchess Bake Shop celebrates her French-Canadian roots. Duchess At Home is packed with a mix of sweet and savoury recipes to level up your home baking—and cooking—game. Whether you’re trying your hand at the All-Day Breakfast Muffins (with squeaky cheese); Tarte Aux Fraises (strawberry pistachio tart from the cover); Tourtière du Lac-Saint-Jean; Sunday Fundy Birthday Cones; or Financier Carrot Cake, the book gives you a glimpse into everyday life for this proud Franco-Albertan. As I didn’t grow up in Canada, Courteau’s ‘advice on how to best enjoy tir sir la neige [maple taffy on the snow] from 8-year-old me’ is particularly handy for this new Canadian. There is even a WHOLE chapter dedicated to Christmas! (Too soon?)
Food, Culture, Place: Stories, Traditions, and Recipes of Newfoundland, Lori McCarthy and Marsha Tulk
As Newfoundland is a place where nothing grows for almost 8-months of the year, Food, Culture, Place helps the rest of Canada understand how the island’s residents manage to stay alive! This particular adventure starts in April—when the land springs back to life—they fish in the summer, then hunt in the fall. Navigating through the ever-changing seasons, locals preserve, cure, smoke, pickle, and store their way through another harsh winter (repeat, repeat, repeat). Co-authors Lori McCarthy and Marsha Tulk want to keep those traditions going for generations to come. From a boil-up on the beach on an open flame, a snack of moose bresaola, or Jigg’s dinner on a Sunday, the cookbook—but sort of a scrapbook— pays tribute to the home cooking of Newfoundland. You’re gaining more than just recipes here, so grab your salt meat buckets!
Bite House: Cooking On Cape Breton Island, Bryan Picard
Think of Bite House: Cooking On Cape Breton Island as a 6-year journal-slash-recipe log. Structured by seasons, Bryan Picard beautifully pays tribute to his teeny-tiny—nearly impossible to dine at—16-seater farmhouse restaurant in the middle of nowhere in Baddeck, Cape Breton, which heartbreakingly closed in 2020 (which is when the world suddenly changed). At first glance, it’s easy to feel a bit intimidated by the dishes of menus past, but the magic is in Picard’s respect for the ultra-local ingredients and, therefore, his restraint with minimal steps. The book is cheffy but uncomplicated. “I always love cooking dishes with broths,” he says, so the Favas, Smoked Mussels, Milk Broth, Fennel, Sea Parsley recipe is one of his all-time faves. His Rye & Flax Sourdough with Bee Pollen Butter recipe will also tickle all those whole grain-loving bread-heads.
Maenam: A Fresh Approach to Thai Cooking, Angus An
Chefs like Angus An help us define what Canadian cuisine is. Growing up on a hobby farm in Maple Ridge (BC) led the young chef to level up his cooking skills at Montreal’s Toqué!, plus one Michelin-starred Nahm (in England) before making his mark in Vancouver with Maenam. His cookbook takes the bright, addictive flavours of Thailand and hits them with a dose of sexy local vibes. As you flick through 100+ recipes in Maenam, you will get hungrier and hungrier! The Northern-Style Grilled Hen with fish sauce, coconut milk, garlic, white pepper and dark soy sauce marinade has my name all over it—so does the Larp Duck Salad and Hot Sour Soup of Spot Prawns. This book is for the adventurous cook who likes to be inspired by everything possible—and edible—in Canada.
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